How do I explain this place? It’s almost impossible without any common frame of reference. But I will try, by breaking it into it’s most simple parts.

The Beach

White sand rings the Island with views out to the blue green lagoon and the reef with the dark blue ocean in the distance separated by gentle breaking waves.

The Water:

Crystal clear, perfect temperature not to warm not too cool. Shallow enough to walk almost anywhere in the lagoon, but swimmable too.

The Coral and Sea Life:

First, thing you notice in the sand are all the black sea slugs. They are and irrelevant as long as you wear beach shoes and they are responsible for making all the beautiful sand. This huge lagoon is filled with remarkable amounts of hard and soft coral, white, yellow, purple and violet. They are teaming with lots of little fish and a few big ones too. The colorful sea shell mollusks are scattered around and a buoy marks an extremely large one at lest a meter long. It would take days of just swimming to explore it all.

The Island Population

Very small, only less than 1000 residents and it doesn’t seem like that many. Every couple of days the small plane makes an exchange of about 30 travelers. People are very calm and accommodating.

There is a nice paved ring road and some paved crossed island roads, less than a dozen restaurants and a few lagoon tour, fishing and dive boats. The mode of transportation just like in Rarotonga is scooter.

Needless to say you feel that you are far away from most civilization.

The Accommodations:

There are two large, somewhat fancy places, but we are in a fantastic private bungalow with a sunset view right on the beach. The air conditioning is good the bathrooms and sheets are very nice and he covered front porch heaven. After having explored the others, we are glad we are here.

The internet:

Sometimes strong. Sometimes non existent. You buy time in 15 minute increments at different and the speed and availability is dependent on the number of people trying to use it at the same time. During a good session we even got to video with Jasmine, David and James at bath time. He’s gotten so big and he’s such a good walker! He’s talking and even said Grandpa! We can’t wait to see him next week.

The Food:

Very simple and contingent on when the last shipment came in. The menu isn’t really what is written. As you drive the island you find that they are struggling to grow some crops in small areas, but not very successfully except for the papayas and coconuts.

The Wildlife:

There are some birds, land crabs, but the only animals you see are wild chickens, roasters and small cats. Dogs were banned by someone on the Island early on and the ban stuck. Thankfully, there are no sand flies like in New Zealand, but there are little Mosquitos especially at dusk. These are mostly a nuisance for Jim, but controlled by OFF.

The Sounds
Quiet. The surf in the distance on the coral reef. Roosters crowing.

The Pace:

Very, very slow. It takes a couple of days to adapt to it even when coming from Rarotonga. You can tell the newbies from the people who have been here. The newbies walk faster and dress more stylishly. Some people go on the tours that keep you busy all day. We choose mostly to scooter the Island and stop for internet and lunch at the little places around the Island to entertain us. Otherwise, we snorkeled, rested, kayaked, read and watched many spectacular sunsets.

The Ending of our South Pacific Adventure:

We were going to dive today, but Jim got a little stomach thing, so we passed and are enjoying the day quietly at the beach. Tomorrow is a strange travel day. The plan, check out in the morning hang around here most of the day, travel to Rarotonga, store our bags, have dinner, and board the plane late for an overnight 10 hour flight to LA. There we go through customs and then make the final flight home to Seattle where we should arrive around 7:30 PM. It should be quite the culture shock after Aitutaki.





The Cook Islands


Our flight overnight to Rarotonga was uneventful. We each took a half of an ambian with a small glass of wine and slept soundly. Too soundly. It was hard to wake up when we arrived at Rarotonga and we were both pretty dopey as we found our driver to take us to the hotel. When we arrived to our lovely room all we could do was go to sleep. So we did.

When we woke up about midday we got our bearings and really took a look at our surroundings. We are in a beautiful villa (much larger than the one bedroom we were expecting) with a lovely view of Muri lagoon. It was pretty stormy our first day with tropical rains and winds. When the sun came out we did some snorkeling in the lagoon. There isn’t much to see until you get closer to the protective reef where the big ocean waves were crashing onto the other side. The big ocean waves breaking create such an interesting contrast with the calm lagoon water . I was definitely affected by the time difference and passing through the space-time-continuum from Saturday evening to Saturday morning. Combined with the weather it made for a very mellow day.

Sunday the weather was much nicer which was perfect because we had planned a scuba dive with Pacific Divers. We didn’t know what to expect. This dive group was very easy going. No need to see our dive cards, the check in was very casual. Six of us piled into an extremely old van. Really, it was amazing that it still ran, complete with plywood floors. The dive boat was small, simple and in much better shape than the van.

The dive site is only 5 minutes from shore which was wonderful. No big-bumpy excursion. We could see from the boat that the clarity was very good and we weren’t disappointed. It was a bit nerve racking doing a back role into the water because the the sides of the boat were several feet above the water. Jim had no problem, but it took me a minute to just go for it. No problem!

We loved the easiness of the dive and beauty of the coral. Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my GoPro battery so I didn’t get very many photos or video. We saw some very pretty fish we hadn’t seen before and enjoyed the freedom of swimming around under the boat. Because we had done so much diving recently we were the best in the group for air consumption so we were the last to return to the surface.

Our second dive site was again only 5 minutes away and we went back to the dock to pick up some new divers who were doing their last test to earn their “open water” certification. How exciting! The second dive site was just as good as the first and we saw a very large lion fish as well as other cool stuff.

We had a bit of drama when I came up the ladder. Their rental fins don’t work with our dive booties so we didn’t wear our booties for these dives. Booties offer protection and a no slip surface coming up the ladder. I wasn’t focusing enough and unfortunately, I slipped, jamming my shin and foot in an extremely weird way between two rungs of the ladder. I was stuck and it took some maneuvering to get my gear off and delicately remove myself. But, with Jim and the Captain’s help I got in the boat. Luckily, I didn’t break anything and I only had a few scrapes and bruises on my left leg.

I spent the rest of the evening using a lot of ice on my leg and foot and I’m walking much better this morning. I should be fine to snorkel and enjoy the rest of the trip: no worries, just a little drama, it’s all good.

As I write the blog on our deck, a local Island music show has begun next door with some great drumming and singing.

Today we are going to rent a scooter and explore some snorkel sites on other parts of Rarotonga and get a massage at a small local spa.

What can we say, Jim and I love scooters! Because of my sore foot we rented just one scooter and I rode on the back. We were both a bit nervous at first, but Jim did a great job. This small Island is very scooter friendly. It’s the main mode of transportation. No one uses helmets even though the law is you can’t drive faster than 40 kph without a helmet. Silly, but that’s the way it is. We were careful never to drive faster than 40 (the speed limit ranged from 30 to 50 kph, depending on whether you were in a little town or retail center or in the “country”). It was easy to navigate — there was only one paved road and you traveled either clockwise or “anti-clockwise” (they don’t say “counter-clockwise” here).

Being on the back of the scooter holding on to Jim is so romantic. It makes me feel young and delicate and a Jim feels young and strong! It’s magical! The weather was a bit tropical yesterday with some really big thunderstorms.

We circumnavigated the Island (clockwise), timing our stops around the tropical weather perfectly. We sat out one 15-minute rain storm over coffee and a super big thunderstorm (lasting 30 minutes) over lunch.

Yesterday was also massage day and we had two great massages at the Rumors Waterfall Spa. We both fell asleep (which almost never happens to me) and were totally relaxed. We made it back to our hotel and enjoyed some quiet reading time.

We decided to ride our scooter out again for sunset and find some dinner. The sunset thunder clouds in the distance were pink and glowing. Our original goal, the Fish House, was closed, so we continued on and stopped at Tamarind House. It was empty, but apparently they were pretty booked up for the evening. The receptionist found us an unused table and we had a great dinner with a pretty sunset view. Now we had to scooter at night back to our hotel, but it was no problem.

Rarotonga has grown on us. You just have to adapt to the slow pace and adjust your activities to the ever changing weather. Now we are on a small plane to Aitutaki (“eye-two-talk-ee”), a smaller island with a much bigger lagoon and a lot of little beach resorts. Our last big adventure of this trip begins in about an hour, and we’re really looking forward to it!

We have arrived in Aitutuki at our lovely beach front condo. It’s pretty awesome. The water is beautiful and the coral In the lagoon is amazingly diverse. We don’t have very impressive internet so no photos until we get back in LA on Mother’s Day.

Final Days in Australia






It’s hard to believe this is our last day in Aussie Land. As I write this we are eating breakfast in Ulladullah at a lovely little Inn by the beach about 3 hours south of Sydney. Unfortunately, we are feeling the full effects of Autumn and it is cool and cloudy. We will still do a beach walk and generally relax before we head to the airport and continue on to our exploration of the Cook Islands as we head east back across the “space time continuum” toward the United States.

It’s been three days and almost 1200 kilometers since I last wrote. We spent our last day in Melbourne walking and grazing the cafés and restaurants. Besides eating and walking we toured the very ornate Parliment building which is particularly glorious due to all the gold paint. Because Melbourne was the center of a huge gold rush in the early 1850’s there was plenty of gold around to decorate the building; and it isn’t just gold leaf it’s 23 carrot gold paint. The tour guide was quite good and we even met someone else on the tour who was from the states. Her daughter lives in Edmonds and the first place she took her Mom to eat there was Dick’s Drive In! It really is a small world. Her daughter is also a scuba diver and we look forward to sharing our dive experience of the Great Barrier Reef with her.

Thursday morning we woke up, caught up on news back home and headed out for breakfast and walked to pick up our rental car. But before picking out our last Melbourne cafe we took a quick look into the Cathedral and walked the grounds. It was typically grand. But the outside grounds with water elements and statues were unusual and really beautiful. I’m including a picture of one statue where the movement of the nun walking down stairs is remarkable.

There are so many cafés in Melbourne you never have to go to the same one twice and we didn’t. Our last one announced that it had proudly been serving coffee since 1863. The coffee was yummy as well as the omelette.

Picking up the car and driving back to the hotel was a breeze. No Worries! Getting to the freeway out was simple. No Drama! We were on our way up the coast from Melbourne to Sydney on a 3 day road trip.

Within an hour the freeway is gone, replaced by a mostly undivided 2-lane road that goes through farmland, then ranch land, then forests, and you don’t see another stoplight for 2 days (although there are lots of traffic circles in the many small towns along the way). We were really surprised that the main road up the coast between two major cities is first not really on the coast and second more like California’s Highway 1 vs H-101 (and nothing like Interstate 5).

But we still had a blast. There was a bus stop made from a section of very large pipe that was painted green with nice benches inside. There were many mail boxes made out of large farm storage containers that had been painted and fixed up with a hinged front access door. There was a lady at a cafe who looked and sounded just like Daphne’s mother from the TV show Frazier.

As we made our way east, then north we were regularly entertained by the wonderful town and park names. You know there is the funny comedy sketch about the fact that some words just sound funny. Well these are funny! (At least to non-Aussie ears). Go ahead say them out loud.

Day 1

Nar Nar Goon
Mt. Ba Ba
Buln Buln
Wirilda Park
Cowwarr Weir
Den of Nargun
Nyerimilang Park

Day 2

Nowa Nowa
Croajingolong Park

There were several other great names but we drove by too fast to remember how to spell them!

Other highlights:

On our way to our first night’s motel, we passed a large flock of Cockatoos in a farm pasture.

Our first night on the drive was spent in a magical little place called Metung. This is a little slice of heaven in the Lakes district where 7 rivers meet the Tasmanian Sea to form brackish lakes behind a 100 kilometer isthmus. We were here during a very quiet time which was marvelous.

We met some lovely people in our short time in Metung and we would like to return. We met one couple who is boating along the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia this summer. I hope we can connect when we are cruising the same coastline this July.

After checking into our hotel we took a long walk, watched the sunset and the many birds and then headed to a remarkable little restaurant, the Metung Galley, where we drank a whole bottle of local wine over our third favorite meal of the trip.

Needless to say we slept well and took a walk before heading out on our long drive up the coast to Ulladulla. We really had no idea how long this drive was going to be as we wove through spectacularly lush country. The drive is made extra long because every extra excursion to the nearby coast off the “main road” takes quite a bit of time. The travel agent tried to warn us, and they were right, we needed another day. But we had a good time, stopped often and finally saw a small mob of Kangaroos at Gypsy Point which is a good thing, because we couldn’t leave Australia without seeing a Kangaroo. You’ll also see the photo of a guy on his motorcycle which his dog in the back in a milk crate wearing sunglasses and clearly enjoy the ride.

Today we woke up and took some walks around Ulladulla before hitting the road. The views are lovely but it was a bit cold today.

The proprietor of the Metung Galley suggested we stop in Mollymook and eat at Rick Stein’s restaurant at Bannisters Hotel. She said it would be Devine, and it was a perfect last meal in Australia. The view was fantastic too. Bannisters also looks like a very good hotel choice for the future.

Our 3 hour drive to the airport was pretty and we saw a large mob of over 100 Kangaroos, a giant flock of cockatoos in a tree near a park and unfortunately a big and very dead wombat on the side of the road. But, the cockatoos were remarkable and took flight in mass when a crow scared them away. Jim posted the video on Facebook.

There were also a few more great names for the funny sounding name game:

We fly overnight to Roratunga this evening and, after crossing back over the International Date Line, will wake up in the tropics this morning and enjoy a second Saturday. We plan to do some more scuba diving over the next week before flying back to Seattle late on Mothers Day.

We truly have loved Australia and will return. It’s so big, the people are friendly, hardy and generally libertarian. It’s got good food, great coffee, yummy wine, passable whiskey and too much nature to experience in one visit.

It’s all good!

PS — Happy Birthday Nan!